I'm DÃ¡niel AratÃ³. .i mi'e DAni,el.Aratos.
And this is the first part of How to Pronounce... A serial within the podcast of jbocradi focused on difficulties with the sounds of Lojban.
Please do forgive me for any mispronounciations of English words - I'm not a native speaker of it. In fact, my mother tongue is Hungarian, a language with completely phonetic pronounciation. That is why I might help You with the most critical points of correct Lojban speech.
Today we are going to see how the two first charecters, y'y. and comma sound in use. If You are not sure about these lerfu (characters) this part is for You.
So let's see the very first member of the Lojban alphabet: the not particularly tricky y'y.. I take the liberty of saying that because native English speakers won't have any problem with this consonant. Thus the majority of the audience may now lay back and watch the others learning it. Just wait until abu. and all the pure vowels come - that won't be easy. y'y. is marked with an apostrophe, and - be careful - not with an h. There is no h character in Lojban, anyway. If You want to be totally precise writing it down, You ought to put a y, an apostrophe and another y (all in lower case) in order to indicate the schwa sounds surrounding the consonant.
The peoples who find y'y. complicated to pronounce are the French and the Italian, though even their cases are different. Let's take French first, this language has a sound which is quite close to our goal, but not the same. This is xy. for example in the name Jerome or the river Loire, and it is indicated with the Roman letter x in the logical language, although our desired y'y. is much softer and far from the hard ry..
If You have the image variations_of_xy_final.bmp opened You can see what I am talking about. If not, You can find a link to it on the webpage of the Lojban radio, at jbocradi vomo'o. The y'y. sound is like a softened version of xy., indeed radically softened. In the second broadcast You could hear some great recordings of the holoalphabetical phrase - .o'i mu xagji sofybakni cu zvati le purdi. Naturally there exists a xy. as well as an y'y. sound in this sentence in xagji and .o'i.
Let me please show the differences between the xy.-variations by saying them out loud. You can follow the changing of the sounds on the illustration and find out where they turn into each other. 'y. k'y. r'y. ry.(soft) ry.(hard) I'm going to repeat the first three now leaving time for You to reproduce each sound. 'y. k'y. r'y.
Yes, I've left the last two out because they are on the other end of the scale, so we don't need them. Actually, only the first sound is a valid y'y. The k'y. and r'y. that followed them belong to the "hard h" category (remember, that is indicated with an x). If You could pronounce the first one clearly, You're on the right way. In the opposite case, here's the recipe:
First pronounce a schwa (say an .y. without rounding your lips) and hold Your mouth in this position. Now take a little breath and release it as You do when You want to clear Your window in winter because You can't see anything of ice.
This was the y'y. sound. If You succeeded, You already know how an y'y. goes, and all You have to do is to make it sound so in fluent speech, too. Try .o'i mu xagji, and if You feel You can distinguish the two consonants, You've achieved the goal.
For the Italian the situation is even more problematic. Look at the image again, You'll be able to see a zero at the beginning. That is because the Italian don't even make an attempt to pronounce y'y.. You can easily recognize "hospital" in the word "ospedale", but as You probably heard, there is no h at all. They call the letter h "akka", which signs the lack of the sound.
Once I read the short pronounciation guide to Hungarian of an Italian-Hungarian dictionary, that started the explanation of h with the following: "In Hungarian it is always pronounced!" The case is the same with Lojban - no sounds are elidable. So You, speakers of Italiano, unfortunately have to learn it anyway. Don't feel upset though, You do have most of the other sounds.
I recommend You the breathing method, also because winter is coming and y'y. is really a useful tool for window clearing. Although be careful, y'y. may never be a voiced sound. Therefore You can try another simple method: try whispering a few words like this, and then press air out of Your lungs in the same way. I hope that helps You.
In case nothing works, You can cheat a bit. Try saying "akka" blurring that double consonant, so it should sound like ak'a. or something similar. You get a rough xy. After that make Your consonant softer and softer (and don't voice it!) until You reach something like the H in the German word Haus. It will be something indeed since this is quite an upside-down method.
Finally let's take an example sentence for y'y. right from Dante - the ending phrase on the Gate of Hell:
Lasciate ogni speranza voi ch'entrate. Leave all hope behind, You who enter. Translating to Lojban as: .i roko poi klama mo'ine'i ku'o co'u pacna (You who are coming into, stop hoping.)
And let's have another, for the French; the famous utterance of Louis XIV: L'Ã©tat c'est moi. The state is me. Which means roughly the following: .i mi du le truci'e (I am the same as the governing-system.)
Given these voice patterns I suppose it will be easier to work on Your y'y.. Remember the three golden rules of foreign languages: to practice, to practice, to practice.
Our other character to get familiar with is comma. Its written form is pretty obvious: the comma itself, and that's all.
This lerfu has a special function in the Lojban language, and it doesn't really have a spoken form. Comma may be found in names where two or more vowels stand by each other. If You have been suspicious about my name: DAni,el., yes, there is a comma. The ibu. and ebu. together could sound like "yeah" in English, but then I would write daniel. in Lojban or DÃ¡njel in Hungarian. Which is not my name... Therefore I use comma, which has the role of separating two syllables, two vowels from each other.
Let's see a few other names written with comma: these examples are names taken from Odyssey. Stress is not so important for us now, but please try to pronounce the vowels standing next to each other purely.
ogigi,es. (It is obligatory to put a consonant to the end of the name. That's why the sy. is there.)
All right, we've finished. That's all for now.
And don't forget: if You're having troubles with a certain letter or letters of the Lojban
alphabet, don't hesitate to contact Matt Arnold at firstname.lastname@example.org or me (my address is email@example.com).
Normally I answer in one or two days, but if I'm not available You can still post Your question to one of the Lojbanic forums: see www.lojban.org. Although I'd recommend to ask me first not to make people who have explained the same vowel 500 times before nervous.
And in the end I have to say thanks to Nick Nicholas for his help with those wonderful Greek names; and to Matt for including my part, so You could hear it in the third broadcast of the Lojban radio, le jbocradi. And last but not least at all: thank You for listening, and until next time, co'o